Sex, drugs and DNA. Science's taboos confronted

Sex, drugs and DNA. Science’s taboos confronted 

Michael Stebbins 

London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan | 2006 | 360pp | ?16.99 (HB) | ISBN 1403993424 

Reviewed by May Copsey

This is not your usual popular science book. In fact you don’t even need a scientific background to be totally enthralled by this passionate, entertaining and sometimes terrifying book. 

Michael Stebbins has spent a lifetime working as a biologist, scientific editor and even government adviser. He speaks with authority and great clarity on a wide variety of subjects including bioterrorism, stem cell research, the legalisation of drugs, and global warming. However, Sex, drugs and DNA  is more than just a wander through topical issues, it is Stebbins’ rally cry, demanding us all to be more informed. 

The book focuses almost solely on the American perspective and the author makes no apologies for this. He sees the US as the world’s powerhouse of scientific research and for this reason believes they should be leading the way in terms of policy. As a result, he attacks George Bush and the current American administration in a damning and unrelenting fashion. Don’t expect a balanced and sober discussion because he tends to bypass opposing arguments. At times it can feel like you are watching a Michael Moore documentary. 

This still remains an entertaining book, with Stebbins’ humour encouraging the reader to continue. There can be no denying the passion and emotion as he races through complex subjects - rare qualities, typically lacking when science is tackled in the media. Admirably, his determination shines through as he reminds us that the future of science will affect us all. 

Many books claim to be the one that will draw the non-scientist into the discussion, inspiring them to learn more, however this one may actually stand a chance.  

Love or hate it - but don’t ignore this book.